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The Dog Days Are Over: The Avalanche Are The Real Deal

Courtesy of .facebook.com/ilovethecoloradoavalanche/

Courtesy of .facebook.com/ilovethecoloradoavalanche/

Brendan Jordan, Sports Editor

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Folks, it’s official: the Avalanche are a force to be reckoned with, and the long awaited rebuild that has been promised to fans for years is finally happening.

It’s taken a while, but the patience of the Avalanche front office has paid off for now, and for the future to come.

Following the historically terrible season in 2016-17, the Colorado Avalanche have shined halfway through the 2017-18 season and put themselves in playoff contention. With some partially new coaching staff, little to no big roster changes in the offseason, and the Matt Duchene trade speculations at an all time high, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t seem to have much hope for success in 2017-18. However, after finally completing the Duchene trade on Nov. 5 during the 14th game of the season, the Avalanche kicked it into high gear, lead by young, superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon and the leadership qualities of captain Gabriel Landeskog and alternate captain Erik Johnson, and pulled their way into playoff contention starting the month of January.

The largest problem that the Avalanche have faced over the last few years was the lackluster play by their defense. With forwards such as Landeskog, MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and recently departed Duchene, the Avalanche posed a huge threat offensively, but couldn’t do the same defensively. While it’s not absolutely flawless, the Avalanche’s defensive core has made some noise this season with their shutdown play. Johnson is finally playing the type of hockey that a first-overall pick is projected to play, and the acquisition of Samuel Girard from the Duchene trade has done nothing but give the Avs more young talent. Along with players like Chris Bigras, Andrei Mironov, and Nicolas Meloche in the minors, and with 2017 draft picks Cale Makar and Conner Timmins playing internationally, the Avalanche have great defensive depth and potential.

Like previously stated, the Avalanche have consistently posed a major threat offensively. Just this season alone, forwards MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog have led the way on the first forward line, combing for a total of 143 points entering the month of February. Saying they’ve been dominant is just too much of an understatement, as MacKinnon has 60 points as of January 25th while Rantanen trails him with 47 points and Landeskog with 36. Additionally, the Avalanche signed rookie free agent and last year’s Hobey Baker finalist Alexander Kerfoot to a two-year, entry-level contract. After not signing with his original draft club, the New Jersey Devils, Kerfoot decided to join the Avalanche. As of Jan. 25, he’s racked up 11 goals and 20 assists and put himself in talks for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.

After losing young goaltender Calvin Pickard to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft in July 2017, the Avalanche were in need of a backup goalie to the now healthy Semyon Varlamov. They went out and signed 29-year old veteran goaltender Jonathan Bernier to backup and mentor Varlamov. Following a season where he won 21 of the 33 games that he started, Bernier put on the Avalanche sweater and thrived. With Varlamov currently sidelined with a lower body injury, Bernier stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam, leading the Avalanche on a ten-game win streak, while posting two shutouts in nine consecutive starts during that time. Additionally, Varlamov has played great hockey when healthy. He is still remaining to be the backbone that the Avalanche lean on in their times of need.

With the last playoff appearance for the Avalanche in 2013, everyone is desperate for another return to the post season to prove our worth. I’ve given general manager Joe Sakic some pushback before because of his lackluster work in his position, but I really have to give him credit for the team that he has put together this season and the great work that he did acquiring the tallent from the Duchene trade. The Avalanche are building into a playoff contender right before our eyes, and the future is very bright for the franchise.

This season has been a great turn around from last season, which gives fans a lot of hope for the future. Mark my words, the Avalanche will return to being a consistent playoff contender in the next few years to come.

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The Dog Days Are Over: The Avalanche Are The Real Deal